Majesty 2: Battles of Ardania

Review

posted 12/2/2010 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
Nobody cares what happens after the Big Bad is defeated.  Generally there is a party, and any romantic pairings hook up, and everybody heads back to the Shire or something.  That much, at least, usually makes it into the last few chapters.

But what then?  How does our hero deal with the mind-numbing drudgery of turnip-herding?  What about the plucky comic relief now that everybody is tired of their lame jokes?  Even the fairy princess has put on a few pounds and has a nasty cough.  What then?

Finally!  There is a game that answers this burning question.  “Majesty 2: Battles of Ardania” is an expansion pack set after the events of “Majesty 2”.  One might have thought a big-name title would have tackled the burning question of “What now?”.  Nope.  It took a light-hearted RTS from 1C Company and Paradox to bring this gnosis to the gaming public.


In any case, the answer is simple: do it all over again.  Turns out there is always a new Bad Guy looking to take over the world.  Your subjects are more than happy to let you risk your neck to defeat him.

And that's the setup behind the Ardania expansion pack.  The kingdom has been at peace for a while after your victory in the original game.  There is peace and prosperity throughout the land.  It's a lot like Mayberry R.F.D., if maybe a bit more snide.  Even your overly-broadly-Scottish-accented advisor is getting a bit bored.  Luckily a new threat emerges.  A mage has been bitten by a werewolf (some suspect it was not an accident) and he has donned a top hat and decided to go rampaging around.


Gameplay is unchanged since the original.  You are still the king and each subject still does their own thing.  The most important measure of your kingdom's viability is your treasury.  Given enough money one can build the buildings, recruit the heroes and plant the flags required to beat back the ravening hoards.  Run out of money, though, and everything falls apart.

See, this is no top-down command economy.  Your heroes are fleshed-out, well-animated, little people with their own bank balances and names and inventories and levels and classes (fighters, archers, clerics, magic-users, etc.).  They wander around your kingdom looking for fame and fortune, or maybe just a little action.  As the king you have to harness these mighty engines of destruction to do useful things by providing them with the necessary incentives.  That is, attach a flag to something, attach a monetary reward to that flag, and let the heroes decide whether they'll take the job.

All well and good, but you need an income stream in order to place flags with.  The clever part here is that your little kingdom can build a market and a magic bazaar and a blacksmith and other economic buildings.  The heroes stop off at these places to buy stuff like magic swords and better armor.  When they do, you levy a tax on the transaction.  This tax goes into your treasury, which can then be used to pay for flags.  You end up with a tiny little virtuous circle: heroes get bounties for flags which they spend in your shops and the resulting tax pays for more flags.

There are a few new buildings, some new heroes and equipment, but they slide easily into the existing framework.  Nothing much is really all that new.  That is not so bad, however.  The original framework had its strong points and this expansion knows enough not to break anything.  If you liked the original system you will like this expansion.


On the flip side, this game is no more accessible than the original.  If you didn't like the original (and it had its weak points as well as strong) this is not the expansion that will make you change your mind.  If anything the difficulty starts high and gets higher.  This is an interesting choice for a game that already had problems with its difficulty curve.  The forum is already starting to see posts asking for help with specific missions.

Some of the most irritating features have been kept.  The rat-spewing sewers, in particular, are back.  They continue to sabotage your city while your heroes are out killing monsters.  This is a particularly effective way to remove player attention from the interesting part in order to do some busywork.  It must have been easier to leave them in instead of balancing the missions.


Also, there are still no walls.  The game has a relentless need to not let the player catch a breath.  It is exhilarating if you like that sort of thing, exasperating if not.

Even with its faults it is hard to stay mad at a game with such a good sense of humor.  Your land is colorful and happy-looking and so are your peasants.  The heroes have their hearts in the right place (generally).  It is a hoot to listen to your minions provide their take on the situation, especially when the situation is grim (“A little help here!”, “ I can't do this all by myself!”).  The overall mood as conveyed through the interface is “Let's have fun with a fantasy RTS!”.

So what can a reviewer say about an expansion pack that is basically a bunch of new missions and some new stuff, but is otherwise very similar to the original game?  If you like the original, this would be a good expansion to pick up.  If not, this won't change your mind.




* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

B
This expansion provides a few new missions, units and weapons. For 15 bucks this is a good buy for fans of the original.